Tech Firms Sign Pledge to Boost Diversity

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Dozens of technology companies are telling the White House that they’ll make their respective workforces more diverse.

The Tech Inclusion Pledge, released on the eve of the President’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) at Stanford, proposes concrete steps for achieving that diversity. It has been framed as an industry-led effort, rather than government-driven, despite heavy promotion from the executive branch.

“We will treat this goal as a top management priority and business imperative,” read a letter addressed to the White House and signed by over 30 tech companies, “because tapping the full measure of talent from across the country is critical for the long-term success of both our individual companies and the nation as a whole.”

Tech firms signing the measure include Airbnb, GitHub, Intel, SAP, and Spotify. According to the letter, they’ll boost diversity by investing in partnerships “to build a diverse pipeline of technology talent,” publish annual reports on the diversity of their respective workforces, and implement “company-specific goals to recruit, retain, and advance diverse technology talent.”

A separate Website set up for the Pledge offers a handful of stats about diversity within the tech industry:

  • 9 percent of industry workers are black or Latino
  • 88 percent of IT patents were created by male-only teams
  • 1 percent of VC-backed startups are led by African-Americans

A number of tech firms have already pledged to boost employee diversity. Although many of those programs are well underway, the employee ranks of some of the nation’s largest and most prominent technology companies remain overwhelmingly white and male. For example, despite much hand-wringing over diversity on the part of CEO Tim Cook, Apple only saw a 1 percent increase in underrepresented minorities among its U.S. employees last year.

As with the firms that signed the Tech Inclusion Pledge, many of these tech giants have initiated multi-pronged efforts to increase workforce diversity that center on adjusting the recruiting pipeline, educating current employees about the need for diversity, and issuing regular updates on progress. But progress remains slow; if the companies that signed the Tech Inclusion Pledge want to move the needle on industry diversity, they should prepare for their efforts to take years.

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